The Cool Factor (The Hobbit: Part 3)

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“And not according to selfish ambition (the desire to put yourself forward, and not according to conceit, but in humility esteeming one another more than yourselves, not caring only for your own things but even each other’s things.” Philippians 2:3-4 One New Man Bible  

This blog post has been on my heart for a week, and throughout this week, my heart and attitude have been like a roller coaster – up and down, up and down. I think currently I’m at a higher point so this is probably a safe place to write this post.

About a month ago, I wrote a blog about what my mother understood spiritually from the first Hobbit movie. Last week, I discussed what my best friend heard the Lord say about it. This week, the subject heavy on my heart is exactly what I stuck out to me in the movie. Perfect timing. It’s all about belonging.

Right before Bilbo reunites with the dwarves, he hears them arguing, debating whether or not he has abandoned them. Of course, he reappears and tells Thorin that he came back because he wants to help the dwarves reclaim their own home, a place where they can belong.

I think I’ve spent the majority of my life looking for somewhere to belong, somewhere I can call home. Even in elementary school (a private school), there was a distinct difference between those who went to church and school there and those who just went to school. When I was younger, I made my best friend in kindergarten, and that was pretty much the only friend I needed. I didn’t care at the time who else liked me or didn’t like me as long as I had her. Looking back, I realize how unhealthily dependant I was on her, especially since she clearly didn’t feel the same way.

In fifth grade, I was suddenly very uncool, and she suddenly needed to be very cool. Maybe she had always needed that, and I just didn’t see it. I don’t really know what was going on in her heart. I’ve never really had access to it.

She found other friends that offered her that “cool’ opportunity and grew a slight obsession with boys that I, frankly, didn’t really care about as much. I tried to care. I pretended to care. I tried to be everything that I thought she wanted, that I thought I was supposed to be, but I wasn’t enough for her.

I pretended in my head that we continued to be best friends until high school. She even wrote me a very sweet note in seventh or eighth grade that states something like, “I know I haven’t been a very good friend to you, but I promise I’m going to get better. We’re going to be best friends until we’re old and gray.” I naively believed her. What does that one verse say? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). I was very sick.

Really though, our friendship ended in fifth grade because how can you have relationship with anyone when you don’t know who you are anymore. I lost myself that year. I lost myself in trying to be someone I wasn’t, I lost myself in the divorce and general upheaval that was going on in my home. I came out broken and alone, and for ten years, I’ve been searching for somewhere to belong.

Throughout junior high, high school, and college, I’ve run into plenty of “cool” people. My current, awesome, and beautiful aforementioned best friend lovingly calls it “the cool factor.” You know what I’m talking about. You probably have some people pop into your mind. And if you don’t, then you’re probably the one with the biggest cool factor in your group of acquaintances. I say that with love intended.

I came to despise these “cool’ people, stare at them in bitter jealousy, resentment, judgment, ect, In the last couple months, I’ve learned the cool factor doesn’t go away after college. There are still fully grown adults who carry themselves with the cool factor. They remind me of high school all over again. They set themselves above others, limit their friendships to only the most beautiful, most confident, most socially acceptable, or whatever it is that matches their criteria. I’ve still struggled with bitterness towards them.

But then last week, the Lord showed me something I didn’t expect, something I didn’t want to admit – I’ve been exactly like them. Ever heard the phrase “hurt people hurt people?” When I was first hurt, I bought into the whole social class lie and placed myself at a certain level near the bottom. I wanted to get to the top because clearly getting the people at the top to accept me would bring value and worth I can’t get anywhere else… Another lie we so readily accept.

In order to get to the top, I couldn’t associate myself with those “lower” than me. I know. It’s disgusting. However, as more and more cool people rejected me, I both needed and hated the people at the top. Now I didn’t want to associate myself with anybody.

In the last few years, I’ve been somewhat of a hermit. Partially trying to deal with and heal from my past, but also because I’ve simply not wanted to hang out with people. I stopped seeing what people were worth in themselves and started looking for what they were worth to me. And it seemed nobody had anything good to offer me. In my broken mind, they offered me either a lower status or an arrogant, self-centered rejection. So I cut myself off, and I have felt homeless, wandering for a place to belong. Much like those dwarves.

But God has been teaching me in the last week, showing me what my attitude and thoughts should really be like. The truth is there are those people who walk in the cool factor much more than others. They all seem to gravitate towards one another and form exclusive and private cliques. I’ve been hurt multiple times by them throughout my teenage years, and I will still run into them in the entertainment industry, at the grocery store, and, yes, even at church. In fact, much more at church than you would think. But now my response has to be different.

I will still meet those people who believe they’re lower than everybody else and want to hide in the corner out of fear and anxiety. I’ve both been people like that and hurt people like that, but now my response has to be different.

Because God has healed my heart and broken the trauma and the lies I’ve been operating under, I don’t have to buy into that social class system bull crap anymore. I hate it. I hate it with a passion. Even when people try to place me lower or higher than them, I don’t have to accept it anymore. My job is to be outside of that system and love them through their dysfunctions in whatever way the Lord shows me. I want to Bring truth to them in whatever way their social status allows me to because that system is a mirage, and it will one day disappear, leaving all the people on it to crash and burn.

We don’t belong on a social ladder, and we, especially the church, need to seriously look at our attitudes towards those around us. Not just those close to us, but to everyone around us. Even those we dismiss or overlook because they’re either too self-absorbed or too uncool for us. How many opportunities are we cutting off because of our own junior-high-mindedness? We need to find those places in our attitudes and ask the Lord to reveal to us where those are coming from so we can be set free.

My best friend and I always talk about how we would never have been friends if we had met in high school. She would have overlooked me, thinking I wasn’t cool enough for her, and I would have judged and resented her, never able to be myself around her. But, by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, we are best friends and sisters and ministry partners in whatever way the Lord plans for us.

I sometimes wonder how many other friendships I’ve missed out on, but healing has had to come first. Acceptance and wholeness from Jesus Christ has had to come first. Building back my confidence is where I am now to get me to the point where I can step outside this system we buy into. My horizon of friendships is widening even now.

So from Jesus’ heart to my heart to yours: “You belong. You are accepted. You don’t have to try so hard. You are loved and seen and wanted. Your home is here, wherever you are, because His love can find you anywhere.”

The cool factor is lame. Let’s not just grow out of it, but eliminate it completely, and love the way our hearts were created to love.

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